Experienced Tigers have lofty goals

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

BRITTANY SCHALLER (left) is one of Howards Grove’s key soccer players returning from last year’s regional champion. Schaller is shown last season attempting a steal against Elkhart Lake’s Becca Diestler. – Photo by Mike McGill BRITTANY SCHALLER (left) is one of Howards Grove’s key soccer players returning from last year’s regional champion. Schaller is shown last season attempting a steal against Elkhart Lake’s Becca Diestler. – Photo by Mike McGill HOWARDS GROVE – The Howards Grove Tigers have high expectations for another strong girls soccer season as they return several key players from last year’s Division 4 regional championship team.

HGHS returns nine starters among 16 letter winners. The Tigers finished second in the Central Lakeshore Conference with a 10-2-2 record and were 17-4-3 overall under head coach Kasey Smith who enters his second season at HGHS.

The Tigers will be competing in the new Big East Conference this season. The BEC is a combination of the old CLC and Olympian conferences.

“We should be able to compete well for the conference championship and be prepared to play late into the playoffs,” he said.

The group of returning starters is led by junior forward Brittany Schaller who has earned All-CLC first-team honors the past two years. Schaller led the Tigers in assists for the 2015 season (total number unavailable) and contributed 12 goals and eight assists in league play.

The Tigers’ other All-CLC players back are junior defender-midfielder Kaitlynn Near and junior goalkeeper Olivia Stauss on the second team and junior defendermidfielder Katie Guse and junior defender Malayna McDaniel, honorable mention.

The other returning starters include junior defender Ashley Reinemann, junior forward-midfielder Emily Schmid, junior midfielder Melissa Oxtoby and junior defender midfielder Morgan Wittman.

Smith pointed out the team’s strengths.

“We have speed and more depth this season than last year. Many of our girls have been together as teammates for years and will play very well together,” he noted.

“Our depth will be a strength. Last year I was only bringing one or two from the sideline that kept us at near full strength. With off- season improvements and some strong freshmen I expect that number to rise to five or six.

“Obviously, our junior class is exceptionally strong and their varsity experience is tremendous,” said the coach.

“We need to replace a big goal scorer in Morgan Edge [graduated] and finding those people early will be key for them to gain confidence in finishing,” he said.

Edge was an All-CLC firstteam midfielder last season and led HGHS in goals and points (goals and assists are combined for point totals).

“We also have to shore up our defense as we lost one to graduation and one [Zyta Mueller] to a seasonending injury.”

Mueller, an All-CLC secondteam defender as a junior in 2015, sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during an off-season practice.

“She is a huge impact for our team and will be missed on the field. However, she has already taken on a new role as captain and helper to the coaching staff,” Smith said.

“We have proven ourselves in the past and our coaches definitely have what it takes to get us to the state tournament. We will just have to stay healthy and focused from this point forward,” said Mueller.

Freshman forward Kate Bruckschen and freshman midfielder Emma Dehne have impressed Smith among the varsity newcomers.

“Emma Dehne and Kate Bruckschen are two freshmen who will compete for starting positions and add instant depth to our roster,” he observed.

“They are both aggressive. Emma is defending very well and I can see that Kate can distribute the ball well and has a nose for the goal.”

Smith pointed out the key for the team to have success.

“Our keeper, Olivia Stauss, is exceptional and only continuing to improve. I expect her to have the best numbers in our conference and she will help when we face the heavyweights we have scheduled for our nonconference schedule. Keeping her healthy and bringing her to a leadership role will help us tremendously,” he said.

Smith stated his top goals for the season:

“Improve with every game and follow our motto, ‘to play hard, play smart and play together.’ Of course, the girls want to win conference and make an appearance at state.

“[Also] find the net early and often so the girls gain confidence, and fight to shut out as many teams as possible. We need to reduce our goals against total to improve overall. The best teams limit scoring opportunities all season, we need to create a shut-down defense.”

Smith sized up the BEC competition.

“Ozaukee will still be the team to beat. Oostburg will also be strong and we will have to see what St. Mary Catholic [Neenah] brings into the conference. SMC did not have a great year last year, however that school has had quality teams in the past and can reload quickly,” he said.

Ozaukee placed first and Oostburg was third in the CLC last year. Ozaukee defeated HGHS in the sectional semifinals last year.

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